Unique Program Sets War-affected Youth Up for Success in the Canadian Workforce

From left: Kiya; Razine; Anna; Yousif
by SalvationArmy.ca

Each year, at The Salvation Army Barbara Mitchell Family Resource Centre in Winnipeg, at least 50 war-affected youth are realizing their dreams through LEEP (Life & Employability Enhancement Program) and successfully integrating into the Canadian workforce.

“Before I came to The Salvation Army, I sat at home confused and depressed,” says Kiya, program participant. “Now, I am hopeful for big things in my future.”

“Before I came to The Salvation Army, I sat at home confused and depressed.”

Kiya left Ethiopia in 2021 due to political unrest. A successful journalist there, he arrived in Canada to no job, no salary and no way to maximize his potential. He says LEEP has restored his confidence and provided training and opportunities he never would have had.

“LEEP helped me know my rights and responsibilities in a new culture,” says Kiya. “It also improved my self-esteem by identifying my transferable skills.”

The 16-week pre-employment training program includes intensive in-class instruction with insights into Canadian culture, health, job skills, safety, self-esteem, communication skills and employment expectations. There is also a work-experience component.

“We help participants find real jobs, not internships or volunteering,” says Anna, program leader. “The goal is that each graduate be employed at the conclusion of the course. Some get entry-level employment, upgrade their education and get the positions they really want.”

Overcoming Challenges

Yousif wanted to be free from war in Iraq. That desire came with significant challenges when he came to Canada in 2021.

“I had no friends, I was sad and I didn’t even know who to call if I was in trouble,” says Yousif. “Now, I am not alone. The Salvation Army is like family.”

LEEP taught Yousif how to communicate and live in a new culture, write a resume and cover letter, and connect with the labour market.

I see a clear future with hope.”

“I want to become a businessman,” he says. “LEEP is super-helpful. I see a clear future with hope.”

Grit and Determination

War in Uganda brought suffering and uncertainty to Razine and her family. The group of 10 escaped to Canada for safety.

“In Uganda, I didn’t get a chance to go far with education,” she says. “There wasn’t enough money for us all to go to school. I had nothing to work toward, so volunteered to mentor youth.”

When Razine came to The Salvation Army, she struggled to communicate. In Uganda, direct eye contact could be considered aggressive. At LEEP, she gained the confidence to better connect with others, improve her English skills and learn about Canadian culture.

“I am super-strong now and have met different people and organizations who can help me.”

“I am super-strong now and have met different people and organizations who can help me,” she says. “I want to work with youth, something I look forward to.”

“Many participants have gone through terrible things,” says Anna. “At the end of a course, we are happy to see them feel valued and satisfied. This building is such a special environment where we can make the Army’s slogan Giving Hope Today a reality.”

By Linda Leigh